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O Pioneers! by Willa Cather

O Pioneers! (1913)

by Willa Cather

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: The Prairie Trilogy (1)

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  1. 31
    The Diary of Mattie Spenser by Sandra Dallas (clif_hiker)
    clif_hiker: pioneer women facing hardship making a home and a life on the prairie...

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English (118)  Spanish (2)  All languages (120)
Showing 1-5 of 118 (next | show all)
When her father dies, Alexandra takes over the running of the farm in Nebraska. Over the years and told in a series of vignettes, we get to see Alexandra's successes and challenges, and get to know the community of pioneer and immigrant folk who work hard and love the land.

My first impression of the book was that the land itself was the most interesting character, and that feeling never quite abandoned me though I was impressed with how much Cather was able to convey about the community in a series of short vignettes that cover a few decades. Did I enjoy the book? It's hard to say. I admired Cather's writing to some extent. I liked some characters and the fact that it was about a woman running a farm. I was disappointed by the side story of Marie and Alexandra's brother Emil. They love each other but of course their love is ill-fated and Marie's jealous husband, Frank, kills them in a fit of passion. It was presented as almost inevitable but it made me mad. The descriptions were sometimes quite lovely. Yet it didn't completely grip me, and I most likely would not read it again. ( )
  bell7 | Aug 8, 2018 |
I always had in the back of mind while I was reading this book that it had been written in a much more conservative time. I suspect that it pushed the limits more back then than it feels to be doing now, especially in regard to women's rights. I was struck by how undated the writing was, not stiff in any way, but not exactly free-spirited either. At times, the narrative is quite eloquent, but it had too many wordy, bland passages for me to forgive its variable quality. For the most part, I chock that up to this being an early work for a gifted writer. I expect to enjoy My Antonia even more. ( )
  larryerick | Apr 26, 2018 |
Not what I'd expected, but lovely. ( )
  DFratini | Apr 23, 2018 |
This is the story of Alexandra and her family in early 1900s Nebraska. Alexandra has a deep love and respect of the land and a less than ideal family. Over her lifetime, she experiences both highs and lows, yet always remains true to her beliefs, and loving and loyal to her family and friends.

I love Willa Cather’s writing, and O Pioneers! did not disappoint. The text is so full of beautiful passages, that I found myself re-reading them over and over again, the meaning and musicality just dancing in my brain.

Cather’s women are strong, not quite flawless, but always determined and admirable. The background of prairie, USA is generally not one of my favourite settings, but the way that she writes is so gorgeous and heartrending, it matches the land and the era perfectly.

What I really liked was that Alexandra, in the late 1800s, did what she knew to be correct in the face of her brothers' opposition, protected someone who was incorrectly targeted as a mentally ill and threatened with persecution and institutionalization, and faced down ridicule from society to be true to her love.

I did not care for Alexandra’s reaction at the end of the book, and her misplaced blame of poor Marie as the cause for all that happened. Hello, enabling of toxic Frank...

“There is something frank and joyous and young in the open face of the country. It gives itself ungrudgingly to the moods of the season, holding nothing back. Like the plains of Lombardy, it seems to rise a little to meet the sun. The air and the earth are curiously mated and intermingled, as if the one were the breath of the other. You feel in the atmosphere the same tonic, puissant quality that is in the tilth, the same strength and resoluteness.”

“There was about Alexandra something of the impervious calm of the fatalist, always disconcerting to very young people, who cannot feel that the heart lives at all unless it is still at the mercy of storms; unless its strings can scream to the touch of pain.”

"The years seemed to stretch before her like the land: spring, summer, autumn, winter, spring; always the same patient fields, the patient little trees, the patient lives; always the same yearning; the same pulling at the chain — until the instinct to live had torn itself and bled and weakened for the last time, until the chain secured a dead woman, who might cautiously be released."
( )
  Critterbee | Apr 16, 2018 |
It was just ok. Kinda boring. Nothing really exciting happened until the end. I think the main problem with this book is that it's just too short. There is not enough time to develop the characters and get the reader really interested in what happens to them. I liked the setting; I just found the characters really one dimensional and blah. I also didn't care for the way it skipped forward in time. I think that was part of the problem too. The only reason I will read the second of the trilogy is because it is considerably longer. Hopefully those characters will be more developed and the story a bit more interesting. ( )
  Aseleener | Mar 24, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 118 (next | show all)
There isn't a vestige of 'style' as such: for page after page one is dazed at the ineptness of the medium and the triviality of the incidents...

» Add other authors (21 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Willa Catherprimary authorall editionscalculated
Byatt, A. S.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lindemann, MarileeEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Perrin, NoelAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Weakley, MarkIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Prairie Spring

Evening and the flat land,
Rich and sombre and always silent;
The miles of fresh-plowed soil,
Heavy and black, full of strength and harshness;
The growing wheat, the growing weeds,
The toiling horses, the tired men;
The long empty roads,
Sullen fires of sunset, fading,
The eternal, unresponsive sky.
Against all this, Youth,
Flaming like the wild roses,
Singing like the larks over the plowed fields,
Flashing like a star out of the twilight;
Youth with its insupportable sweetness,
Its fierce necessity,
Its sharp desire,
Singing and singing,
Out of the lips of silence,
Out of the earthy dusk.
To the memory of
Sarah Orne Jewett
in whose beautiful and delicate work
there is the perfection
that endures
First words
One January day, thirty years ago, the little town of Hanover, anchored on a windy Nebraska tableland, was trying not to be blown away. A mist of fine snowflakes was curling and eddying about the cluster of low drab buildings huddled on the gray prairie, under a gray sky. The dwelling-houses were set about haphazard on the tough prairie sod; some of them looked as if they had been moved in overnight, and others as if they were straying off by themselves, headed straight for the open plain. None of them had any appearance of permanence, and the howling wind blew under them as well as over them. The main street was a deeply rutted road, now frozen hard, which ran from the squat red railway station and the grain “elevator” at the north end of the town to the lumber yard and the horse pond at the south end. On either side of this road straggled two uneven rows of wooden buildings; the general merchandise stores, the two banks, the drug store, the feed store, the saloon, the post-office. The board sidewalks were gray with trampled snow, but at two o’clock in the afternoon the shopkeepers, having come back from dinner, were keeping well behind their frosty windows. The children were all in school, and there was nobody abroad in the streets but a few rough-looking countrymen in coarse overcoats, with their long caps pulled down to their noses. Some of them had brought their wives to town, and now and then a red or a plaid shawl flashed out of one store into the shelter of another. At the hitch-bars along the street a few heavy work-horses, harnessed to farm wagons, shivered under their blankets. About the station everything was quiet, for there would not be another train in until night.
The history of every country begins in the heart of a man or a woman.
People have to snatch at happiness when they can, in this world. It is always easier to lose than to find.
Those fields, colored by various grain! - Mickiewicz
Last words
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Wikipedia in English (2)

Book description
Alexandra is the eldest child of the Bergsons, a ship-building family from Norway who have come to the American Midwest to wrest their living from another kind of frontier. Alexandra is driven by two great forces:her fierce protective love for her young brother Emil, and her deep love of the land. When her father dies, worn out by disease and debt, it is she who becomes head of the family and begins the long, hard process of taming the country, forcing it to yield wheat and corn where only the grass and wildflowers had grown since time began. Through the life, hopes, successes - and failures - of this magnificent woman we learn the story of all the immigrants who came to carve out new homes for themselves, who struggled against ignorance, drought, storm, poverty and came to love and understand the earth until it rewarded them with richness beyond measure.
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0679743626, Paperback)

One of America’s greatest women writers, Willa Cather established her talent and her reputation with this extraordinary novel—the first of her books set on the Nebraska frontier. A tale of the prairie land encountered by America’s Swedish, Czech, Bohemian, and French immigrants, as well as a story of how the land challenged them, changed them, and, in some cases, defeated them, Cather’s novel is a uniquely American epic.

Alexandra Bergson, a young Swedish immigrant girl who inherits her father’s farm and must transform it from raw prairie into a prosperous enterprise, is the first of Cather’s great heroines—all of them women of strong will and an even stronger desire to overcome adversity and succeed. But the wild land itself is an equally important character in Cather’s books, and her descriptions of it are so evocative, lush, and moving that they provoked writer Rebecca West to say of her: “The most sensuous of writers, Willa Cather builds her imagined world almost as solidly as our five senses build the universe around us.”

Willa Cather, perhaps more than any other American writer, was able to re-create the real drama of the pioneers, capturing for later generations a time, a place, and a spirit that has become part of our national heritage.

From the Paperback edition.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:00:32 -0400)

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Swedish farmer John Bergson's daughter Alexandra encourages the family members to help keep his dream alive after his death.

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